BJ Penn Gets January 15 Return Date, Meets Yair Rodriguez in Main Event

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2016

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 11:   BJ Penn receives his award as he is inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame at the UFC Fan Expo in the Sands Expo and Convention Center on July 11, 2015 in Las Vegas Nevada. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

BJ Penn’s (16-10-2) return to action in the UFC has a new date and a new opponent.

Penn is scheduled to fight in the main event against Yair Rodriguez (9-1) in Phoenix on January 15 at a yet-to-be-numbered UFC Fight Night. The UFC made the announcement via Twitter on Monday.

2016 was a tumultuous year for Penn. He had several dates lined up for his return, but one thing or another kept that from happening. Penn had been accused of sexual assault, but there was insufficient evidence for prosecutors to move forward with the case, per TMZ. He looked to be ready to return against Ricardo Lamas in the Philippines, but an injury forced him off the card, resulting the in total cancellation of the event, as reported by Ken Pishna of MMAWeekly.com.

The UFC Hall of Famer gets no easy opponent in his return.

Rodriguez is one of the hottest up-and-coming fighters in the UFC and is on a six-fight win streak.

Penn has not won a fight since his 2010 dismantling of Matt Hughes at UFC 123. Since then he has gone 0-3-1.

The January main event marks the second bout for Penn at featherweight. His 145-pound debut came against Frankie Edgar, where Penn looked pitiful. Edgar battered Penn for more than two rounds before the contest was stopped in the third round.

January’s fight with Rodriguez will be a chance for Penn to prove his critics wrong. Penn made the change to Jackson-Wink MMA in early 2016 to train alongside the likes of Jon Jones, Donald Cerrone and a host of other elite fighters, per Mike Bohn of MMAjunkie.

A win for Rodriguez would undoubtedly be the biggest of his career and launch him into being a contender as 2017 gets underway.

It’s a captivating bit of matchmaking with both men having a lot to prove, and it goes down in two months in Phoenix.